Dwora Fried’s haunting autobiographic mixed media boxes

Box Blue Vanity- Typical Viennese “overstuffed” room. My mother and I loved going to the movies – I collected film bubble gum cards.

“Growing up as a Jew in Vienna, I have always felt like an outsider and that perspective is reflected in my art,” explains Fried. “It is by far my most autobiographical work; it contains elements of my life as a Jewish/Austrian/Lesbian daughter of a holocaust survivor.”

Dwora Fried’s mixed media boxes capture people, places and emotions under glass – literally. Composed in identical wooden boxes with glass fronts, the pieces ask unsettling questions about identity, beliefs and memory. They recreate imaginary scenes of displacement, isolation and entrapment.  Unsettling, provocative and at times humorous, the pieces seem to be miniature, colorful doll house rooms: however their small size (8 x 12 x 3.5 inches) force the viewer to get closer and get a sense of the intimate world of the artist. Combining vintage dolls and toys from the 40’s and 50’s with old family photographs and personal items from her mother’s apartment, she recreates what it was like to have the memory of the Diaspora be a part of your childhood.

Self Portrait 2- Digitally enhanced photo, plastic toys, doll’s underpants, color photo of Vienna in a puddle

As a child I was pretty much terrified of everything: Kasperl (the Austrian puppet hero) the witch, Peter Pan. Now I understand that I ‘inherited’ my mother’s nightmares and that the fairytales she read to me had nothing to do with my terrors.


Inspired by Marlene Duma’s MOCA show, “Measuring your own grave.” I could relate to the feeling of dislocation and theatricality.  The zombie babies are taken from her paintings and placed in a living room that’s half Egypt, half Vienna.


There is a sense of hopelessness about how history repeats itself and how powerless we are to stand up to it. This time, we do know and we still do nothing.

Betty Brown writes about Dwora’s boxes in Artweek LA, “Dwora Fried creates tiny tableaux inside glass-topped wood boxes. She populates them with miniature figures and photographs so that the constructed worlds suggest but do not contain specific narratives. Only by reading the artist’s accompanying texts does the viewer realize that many of the tableaux are disturbingly autobiographical.”


My mother was terrified of crying babies, scarred by memories of the war.  As her first born, she was unable to feed me when I cried.

You can see more of Dwora Fried’s mixed media boxes on her website http://dworafried.com/


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